Yaldabaoth Has A Problem: A pesky author named Derek Swannson has been writing books that veer too close to the truth about the Lord of the Illuminati’s underground activities on Earth. Intent on destroying Swannson’s reputation by fuelling his gonzo appetites with the rewards of American capitalism, Yaldabaoth enlists the help of Jeb Beezos, the CEO of Glamazon–a global Internet juggernaut that’s made Beezos one of the world’s richest men–and Conye Best, a superstar rapper who happens to be married to the world’s most famous reality TV star, Limn Lardassian. What follows is a parody of an increasingly totalitarian society that’s already on the verge of parodying itself–a skewering of the dark side of American pop culture and the Deep State’s pathocratic agenda that’s darkly funny because it’s so deeply true. Crash Gordon and the Illuminati Underground combines political satire, paranormal romance, surrealistic fantasy, and slapstick humor into a remarkably entertaining and unforgettable story that will forever change the way you think about the extremes of fame, wealth, and power.
Derek Swannson joins me today to chat about the wild and at times thinly veiled parody adventures that take centre stage in his novel ‘Crash Gordon and the Illuminati Underground’. Derek thanks for taking a few minutes to chat about this novel. From the introduction alone there’s some clear references to some of the large players in today’s American society. What first raised your intrigue level about current society and pushed you towards the creation of this parody?
Crash Gordon and the Illuminati Underground is the third book in the Crash Gordon series, so I’ve been living with these characters for a while now (since 2001, actually). The idea for the series began on the day of the World Trade Center attack on 9/11, if you want to go that far back. I was living in a two-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on the day the planes struck the World Trade Center. I tore myself away from the television that awful morning long enough to go walk my big, affable Irish Wolfhound, Clara, who seemed unperturbed by any notion of terrorists attacking her beloved city. We went down to one of the piers jutting out into the Hudson River where we had a clear view—along with a few hundred other people—of the towers burning downtown, unmediated by television cameras and their accompanying terror-propaganda narratives. If Clara and I had stayed out there a little while longer, we would have seen the first tower collapse with our own eyes. Instead, when we got back to our apartment building, the uniformed Polish doorman, Mireck, told us about it. My first, half-stunned thought was, “This is just like ‘The War of the Worlds.’” I should clarify that thought: I wasn’t thinking that a hostile Martian invasion was in any way responsible for what was going down. What I was thinking was that there was something off, something fake, about the whole scenario as it was occurring—similar to how Orson Welles’ fabulous radio dramatization of “The War of the Worlds” had created so many instances of panic in the more credulous, faked-out members of its listening audience when it was first broadcast in 1938. When I was seven years old, I had an old LP recording of “The War of the Worlds” that I used to play over and over. “How could anyone not know this was fake?” I used to wonder, secretly delighted that a bunch of dumb adults had been fooled, a long time ago, but not seven-year-old, worldly-wise me. Future generations will probably wonder the same thing about us in regard to 9/11: “How could they not know it was a false flag terror event?” they’ll think.
So you’ve primarily drawn from this central life experience when writing this book.
Sure. Doesn’t everybody? Even the journey to hell in this new book was based on a shamanic trip to the underworld that I had when I was younger—although we probably shouldn’t get into that.
No, that does sound like it might be a bit deep for the audience today and is probably is best saved for another time. Did you feel that during the process of writing this book you needed to delve into research to support your wild shamanic trails?
Absolutely. It took roughly fifteen years of research to get to this point. Some people think it shows. I’ve been called “the conspiracy world’s Nick Cave” by the British scholar Dr. Matthew Alford (author of The Writer with No Hands and Reel Power: American Cinema and American Supremacy). Robert Kirkconnell (author of American Heart of Darkness: Volume I: The Transformation of the American Republic into a Pathocracy) has also noted that I’ve done “extensive research into hidden power, assassinations, conspiracies, and deep politics.”
From your extensive research, what did you find was the main point you want the audience to absorb from your book?
I wanted to uncover the truth about the criminal enterprise that I now think of as the American Deep State.
Was writing this truth rewarding for you?
Yes, I enjoyed the day-to-day experience of writing this book more than I’ve ever enjoyed writing any of my previous books. Completing it and getting it published has been decidedly less rewarding, at least so far.
If the process of publishing is less rewarding, why do you write and publish your writing?
These days, I’m secure in the knowledge that I’m writing to reach a deeper understanding of the world and my place in it, rather than doing it for the sake of ‘sheer egoism’—the term George Orwell used in his 1946 essay ‘Why I Write’ to describe his own early writerly motivations. (Elaborating on that theme, Orwell also listed: ‘Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc.’) As the reviews trickle in for each new book that I publish, I now anticipate seeing more harsh criticism than praise, because I know I’m no longer even attempting to cater to mainstream tastes.
As know that you’re not attempting to cater to the mainstream, do you have a solid direction of where the book is going and how it will finish?
I never know how a book will end, exactly. That would kill the whole process for me. Sometimes, my psyche will hand me the last sentence when I’m a few chapters away from finishing, and then it’s simply a matter of figuring out how to get there from where I am at that point in the writing process. It makes the writing flow easier somehow.
And how does the writing flow happen for you?
I write during my train commute to and from New York City every day—and that seems to be enough to keep my imagination focused on the book-in-progress. I try to write, or revise what I’ve been writing, every day. I’m a big reviser as I’m going along. I know a lot of other writers say that will bog you down, but it works for me.
Do you ever need to get yourself un-bogged in other stages of the writing process? What keeps you unbogged?
A gallon of strong coffee and the usual internal pep talk about how my whole life will be meaningless if I don’t finish the book I’m writing.
Yep, that gallon of coffee should do it! You’ve mentioned that you’re a big reviser. Does that translate into you completing the majority of your own editing?
I’m occasionally employed as an editor on books that are not my own, so yeah, I do most of my own editing. But my proofreaders always catch things that I’ve missed because I’m so used to hearing the sentences in my head the way they SHOULD have been written.
That disconnect between what ended up being typed and what was in your head I always find interesting. Do you find that there are words that your brain also glosses over so that when you read your own work you find certain words that you’ve repeated to excess?
‘Just’ and ‘like’ come to mind, but I don’t have a list.
Speaking of lists if they made your book into a movie do you think you could form a list of actors to play the main characters?
A friend of mine recently suggested Beck for the character that goes by my name. Can Beck act? I have no idea. That same friend also suggested Grutle from the Nordic metal band Enslaved for the Crash Gordon character. Telling you about it now, I’m beginning to suspect he’d had one too many hits while listening to his stereo too loud that day.
Okay, as you don’t have a fully formed cast list in mind I’m curious as to how your characters evolved?
In a way, it seems like they’ve always been there, waiting patiently for me to get focused enough to give them a life within the book’s pages.
Would you meet with them in person if given the chance?
No. I’m an amiable but antisocial guy—and besides, it’s supposed to be bad luck to meet your doppelganger.
You never know it mightn’t be such bad luck after all. Since we’re all both keen to keep on our good luck streak today I’d like to finish today’s interview with some questions from our quick fire round. I’ll start with: Does your day job influence your writing?
In my other life, I’m a commercial artist. Because of that, I’ve been able to write about the New York art world from an insider’s perspective.
Are you a valuable asset on a quiz team?
Only if it’s ‘Conspiracy Theories for $500’ on ‘Jeopardy!’
I shall call you in on the specialist rounds of the quizzes then. Do you have any tips for self-publishing for other authors?
Do it for love, because even getting paid minimum wage for all the hours you put in on a book is a long shot. According to the latest Amazon statistics, over 3,000 books are now being published EVERY SINGLE DAY, but it seems people are buying fewer books than ever. Their attitude seems to be: Why pay for creative work of any kind when the Internet offers such an abundance of porn and trivial infotainment for free?
What is your favourite song or music to work by?
The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Radiohead, Nick Cave, The National, Okkervil River, and Will Johnson (who also fronts the band Centro-Matic). But really, this is a loaded question—it could so easily backfire on an author that you should probably drop it. I once heard Harlan Ellison brag that he was listening to a lot of Huey Lewis and the News and I lost all respect for him in that moment. (Plus, he’s extremely short and when I met him he was wearing a black silk bomber jacket with puffy white sleeves and a coiling red dragon embroidered on the back, which made look like a gay Yakuza mobster—I’m sure that didn’t help.)
What’s the most unusual name you’ve ever come across?
Skeeze Lester Huntley—who should be played by Zach Galifianakis in the movie version of Crash Gordon and the Revelations from Big Sur.
Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
There’s a saying from the Gospel of Thomas that I’m particularly fond of: “Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds, he will be troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and he will rule over the All.” There’s also this from Jiddu Krishnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
What is your best tip for authors?
There’s honor in being a hardware store clerk.
What is your favourite quote?
Right this minute? “When exposing a crime is treated as committing a crime, you are being ruled by criminals.” Someone affiliated with Anonymous came up with that, I think… either that or it was just some random guy named Anonymous.
What is your favourite word?
Right now? Shambolic.
To end today’s little tête-à-tête I’d like to know if you think there was any pressing questions that were missed today.
Briefs or Boxers?
I haven’t asked that question as in many cases it’s a bit hard to see how that directly or indirectly relates to book writing, but I can see that as a solid question. And for the record what is your answer?
Boxers. Briefs are only worn by Deep State puppeteered perverts.
Interesting premise there. That might be something to research in your next book! Derek, thanks for joining me today and I wish you the best of luck with your promotion of ‘Crash Gordon and the Illuminati Underground’.
Want to find out more about Derek? Connect here!